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Alex

The Role of Guidebooks (or, A Call To Arms)

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Its always interesting to me how the focus the climbers in a particular locale shifts when new guidebooks appear. In the Cascades and Coast Range, where the opporunities to climb are varied and vast, the majority of climbers tend to focus their efforts on the popular and well-known. This changes every few years as new guides are released - the most recent being Nelson's two volumes, but also Jeff Smoots Washington Rock Climbs and other works (TBP). Only a few months ago, no one had ever heard of Watusi Rodeo, or New York Gully. Today, these climbs are all I hear about. I understand that part of the appeal is that the route research is already done for you, and if you have limited time in the field, that can be important. But sometimes it borders on the rediculous.

Are climbers no longer willing to explore, no longer willing to put in the time to do the crime, willing only to be spoon-fed what others think is interesting or worthy? Few of the climbers I know are willing to even deal with the Beckey guides these days (even when they are already in their third revision, go Fred!), and that is a symptom of what I am about to suggest. When was the last time you heard of anyone climbing Trapper, or Garfield, or the SE Face of the North Peak of Chimney Rock? These are surely worthy climbs, remote, difficult, rewarding.

Fred Beckey is in his 70s now, and his venerable tomes of Cascades climbing history, geology, and climbing information have never seen an equal labor of love in the history of modern climbing. Who will take up the torch when he is gone? What will the next truly complete Cascades guidebook look like?

Something to ponder as you work your way up the next trade route....

Alex

 

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There are three phases of tourism: discovery, promotion, and crowd control. These phases also apply to climbing areas.

Beckey's guide has documented the discovery phase in the Cascades. For climbers interested in new routes, Beckey's guide remains essential. It's also a good idea to browse the American Alpine Journal for routes put up since Beckey's last edition was published (although Journal entries for the Cascades have been pretty scarce the past few years).

Nelson's and Potterfield's guides are a sign that phase two has arrived in the Cascades--promotion. In a big range like this, climbers want to do the classics, and selected-route books lead them right there (or, at least, to one person's list).

As Forrest said, explorers aren't hampered by selected-route books. New climbers love them. My concern (as you've probably guessed) is what happens when we enter phase three--crowd control. In some places in the North Cascades like Boston Basin we're already there. One solution is to try and spread the climbers out. Voila! More selected route books!

I don't know where this will all lead. I'm sure that Nelson, Potterfield and The Mountaineers Books are at least aware of these issues. Notice how routes in "Fifty Classic Climbs" have been omitted from both their volumes. This is partly just a marketing decision, but also an acknowledgement that some classics don't need more attention.

Lowell Skoog

lowell.skoog@alpenglow.org

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As I understand it, you have two issues:

1) As routes are published in the guides, they become more popular, to the point where it seems like people *only* do the routes in "selected climbs"

2) You are worried that the comprehensive guide books a la Fred Beckey will fall into disrepair as all energy is focused on a few routes.

My response is as follows:

1) If you are an explorer, why do you care if the majority of the climbers are concentrated on a few, easily accessible routes? More space for those of us who are willing to go a little further off the beaten track.

There's a lot of good climbers out there who are years ahead of the guidebooks, but keep a low profile. Maybe you had never heard of Watusi Rodeo or the New York Gullies until Nelson's new guide came out, but among the certain circles, they've been known for years. There will always be people who go beyond the "selected climbs" - and the routes they find will be in the next edition... and those who aren't interested in looking further than the latest guide probably aren't the type to explore anyways.

That said, I would also admit that probably half the alpine routes I've attempted over the last couple of seasons were in one or the other of the recent guidebooks. I've got over 15 years of cascades experience and an extensive list of potential routes and future enterprises - researched with maps, recons, word of mouth, and the CAG - but I don't always feel like going to the effort of being off the beaten track. Maybe I want to concentrate on moving fast, or having fun, or I just want to know that the route is going to be high-quality. A lot of exploratory climbing means shitty routes with long approaches...

2)As for fred's books, I'm sure someone will emerge to take over the mantle, if only to have access to the archives in fred's basement. Jim Nelson and Fred go way back together, and I wouldn't be surprised if he picks up the baton, but if not him, someone.

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Only a few months ago, no one had ever heard of Watusi Rodeo, or New York Gully. Today, these climbs are all I hear about.

 

I think the time frame on these was more like the last few years, not months.

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Only a few months ago, no one had ever heard of Watusi Rodeo, or New York Gully. Today, these climbs are all I hear about.

 

I think the time frame on these was more like the last few years, not months.

The post was made in 2000. First ed. of Nelson vol II w. Colonial in it came out that year confused.gif I had never heard of it before then either Geek_em8.gifyelrotflmao.gif

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Only a few months ago, no one had ever heard of Watusi Rodeo, or New York Gully. Today, these climbs are all I hear about.

 

I think the time frame on these was more like the last few years, not months.

The post was made in 2000. First ed. of Nelson vol II w. Colonial in it came out that year confused.gif I had never heard of it before then either Geek_em8.gifyelrotflmao.gif

 

HAHA. LOL...didn't see that. smile.gif In that case it seems to be dated just about perfectly smile.gif

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I have a bit of an odd take on guide books. I generally only use them to figure out where a new climbing area is and that's it - I don't want to know anymore. I'd much rather walk the rock, scope lines out, and just pick the most interesting things to climb; guides really screw that up.

 

You might try it sometime; don't worry about what anyone else thinks about the rock/routes, pretend no one has ever climbed there and just approach it unseen with your own eyes and judgment. Don't worry about ratings, pro (bring a rack), or anything else. Go, scope, climb.

 

* Will you epic and bail sometimes? Sure.

* Will you not get off the ground sometimes? Absolutely.

* Will routes be easier than you thought sometimes? Sometimes.

* Will you get scared pissless sometimes? You're only human.

* Will you climb harder than you ever thought possible because you didn't know how hard something was? Likely, at least on the good days.

 

Look at the book on the drive back home (if you must), who knows maybe you'll surprise yourself...

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I for one love guide books. They are a launching platform for a newbee like me to search and explore. To provide me with an attainable goal and a motivation to admire the amazing climbing that has been done up here in the PNW. As for the loss of exploration I would say that is far from possible. As long as there are climbers they will continue to seek harder and more remote places to pursue their passion. In the short year that I have moved from the gym to the alpine I have bookmarked dozens of I wonder if that has been climbed or could some other unique adventure be masterminded in my mind. Sure there will always be the mounty types who only seek to get a dozen pins for knocking off they standard climbs but truly passionate climbers will always seek a certain solitude in getting more remote while doing things that have never been done.

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Blake (and other Newbies),

 

The guides and history are full of adventure, passion, tales, routes to be done some day - but every route in every guide book on earth was put up by someone that had no clue if they could really get up the damn thing or not. All they had was just an idea that somehow burned itself into an obsession that led to the attempt.

 

All of you sell yourselves short to some extent by only climbing by guides; never developing an eye that matches/exceeds your current capabilities/skills. The reality is you don't need the guides, you don't need the ratings, you don't need beta, you don't need to know whether a line is even a route or not - as you become competent leaders you are all perfectly capable of learning to scope out and assess lines for yourselves. It is really the quintessential skill that, sadly and unfortunately, many if not most climbers never learn.

 

It is the heart and soul of what [onsight] FA's is all about - not knowing in advance. It has also been the driving motivation for all my years of climbing. For that matter many of us early on really resented chalk because it revealed moves and whole lines in some cases. We saw the clear psychological dependency of it again and again as we'd go to new areas, partner up with random [good] folks, and suggest climbing a line we spotted only to have partner after partner notice there is no chalk on it, dive for their guidebook, and proclaim "there is no route there!". Exactly. And nothing would get these folks up a piece of rock without chalk on it. Or better yet, just wandering off onto an interesting diverging line (with no chalk); that generally sparked all but outright indignation and/or panic. In fact, many of these folks climbed with the guidebook drilled and slung on their harness to insure they'd never climb a new line. The only place that wasn't consistently the case was the Gunks - those fools by and large were up for anything and the stranger the better.

 

Again, don't sell yourselves short - have some adventure, isn't that why you started climbing to begin with? You can always fall back on classics and running around with the guidebook to insure you don't get out of you comfort zone - but then you'll rarely get out of your comfort zone...

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Great post Joseph. I've done the "well lets just give this route a try" thing a few times and it has always been fun.

 

Thanks for the reminder.

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There are three phases of tourism: discovery, promotion, and crowd control. These phases also apply to climbing areas.

 

Seems like a good launch-point for discussion, although I wouldn't call climbing tourism quite yet! tongue.gif

 

The discovery phase seems to be for the more intrepid, the promotion (obviously) for the ensuing ascentionists, and the last element seems to fall largely upon the promoters (guidebook authors).

 

Their responsibility lies, at the very least, to consider ethics, access and impact.

 

I personally believe that all FA information should be included in ALL guidebooks to preserve integrity of history, as well as contact information.

 

My .02

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How about a Selected Chosspiles guidebook so you know which routes to avoid. Sneak your favorite underground classic into the guide to ensure the masses never discover it.

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How about a Selected Chosspiles guidebook so you know which routes to avoid. Sneak your favorite underground classic into the guide to ensure the masses never discover it.

 

That would be the Southern Oregon rock guide wouldn't it...?

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I'm one of those for whom a "selected climbs" book is useful because it's easier to identify the "good" climbs. The approach descriptions tend to be more accurate as well. (Compare, for example, the approach description of White Chuck Mtn in Beckey to Smoot's.)

I suppose a 'real' climber would consider sketchy approach descriptions, etc, a part of the charm of the climb, and certainly there's a lot to be said for exploring, getting lost, and found again, but for those of us with a limited number of free weekends, the selected guides have their place.

 

And, as someone else also mentioned, when everyone gets channeled onto the "selected" climbs, the ones that don't make the cut are emptied out.

 

The question of who will take over Beckey's mantle is one that I've heard discussed from time to time. No doubt he would have something to say about it. But now that the books are assembled, it's mostly about maintenance, which is a much easier job than the creation of the books. An armchair climber with a CC.com logon could just about keep them up with occasional calls for new edition beta.

Edited by Alpine_Tom

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I love the guidebooks! I mostly get enough adventure just being on the route, and I really appreciate that someone figured out the approach for me. If this makes me somehow a weaker shade of myself, oh well. I can imagine that "stronger me" out there, armed only with a topo map and a sneer - but he's not married with kids! grin.gif

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Only a few months ago, no one had ever heard of Watusi Rodeo, or New York Gully. Today, these climbs are all I hear about.

 

I think the time frame on these was more like the last few years, not months.

The post was made in 2000. First ed. of Nelson vol II w. Colonial in it came out that year confused.gif I had never heard of it before then either Geek_em8.gifyelrotflmao.gif

 

It appears this thread started way back in '00 and JoshK revived it after 5 years. The North Face of Colonial is hard to miss and never needed to be in a guide book to be "discovered". The thing stares you down every time you drive the North Cascades highway. As far as I know, it's only been climbed 4 times: 1-Twight and co, 2-Rat and co, 3-Forrest and Dan and 4-David and Wayne.

 

Speaking for myself, I will admit Nelson's guide book inspired me somewhat, but it didn't lead me to the climb. Just like the North Rib of Fury, once I saw it, I wanted to climb it. Simple as that.

 

Beckey's guides are so incredibly complete for such a complicated and vast area that it's hard to imagine there are any 1st ascents left out there. But there are and they will be found by the explorers willing to put in the effort.

 

To climb year round in the Cascades you have to have a long list of routes you want to do. You then tick them off as the weather and conditions allow. I don't mind using guide books to formulate that list.

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As an aside, its always interesting to see where these thread resurrections lead. I believe the post I made that started this thread was the first post I ever made on cc.com!

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